In November 2018, the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) held its Taking Parliament to the People (TPTTP) in the Gauteng Province to assess the impact of in-migration on health and education sectors in the province.

This week, from 16 to 19 March 2020, the NCOP went back to the province to take stock of the progress made by the government on the commitments which the departments made.

The Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Joe Phaahla, was the first to respond. In his presentation he stated that “the issues raised in 2018 included, among other things, the shortage of emergency medical services and efficiency thereof. Steps have been taken, including 20 multi-purpose emergency rescue vehicles that have been purchased.

On safety and security of emergency officers, in his view, there is a formal arrangement with the South African Police Service (SAPS) to ensure that medical staff is safe at all times.

According to the MEC of the Department of Health in Gauteng, Dr Bandile Masuku, his department is looking at insourcing all security services in healthcare facilities, “modalities are currently being assessed to find a lasting solution to security at these facilities”.    

According to the Gauteng’s Department of Health report, there is now an increase in the percentage of the availability of vital medicines at healthcare facilities, compared to the NCOP visit in 2018.

On the shortage of specialists, he said “we are aware we could not fill all the posts in healthcare facilities due budgetary constraints, but some of them have not been filled due to unavailability of funds. But there was an intervention in this regard – through the stimulus health packages that assisted to capacitate our health human resources”.

Issues on the shortage of beds that were raised in 2018, the MEC responded that there are 15 million people officially registered in Gauteng, “but there are 28 million people visiting our facilities. That is what we are faced with due to in-migration”.  

To improve efficiency in the sector, the department has introduced the “I Serve With A Smile” programme, which is meant to boost the morale of medical staff “through tokens of appreciation that would be given to well-performing staff. This would be supplemented by the basic tools of trade to boost the efficiency of our healthcare facilities”.

Ten priority hospitals are part of the improvement plan that will bear the trademark of a new healthcare system in Gauteng.

The province has committed itself to improving access to quality Early Childhood Development (ECD), because “ECD is a critical component of the Millennium Development Goals”, said the Head of Department of Social Development in Gauteng, Ms Thembeni Mhlongo.

She maintained that the “lack of appropriate infrastructure, some of which was identified during the NCOP oversight visit in 2018 in communities, calls for a radical transformation in how new settlements are built, to include social infrastructure such as ECDs”.

Substance abuse and gender-based violence were some of the major issues identified in 2018 by the NCOP delegation to Gauteng. Ms Mhlongo assured the NCOP delegation that they are doing their level best to combat these social ills.

But the main objective of the department is to wage a concerted war on poverty. “There is comprehensive profiling of 50 poorest wards to fight urban poverty through the food security programme,” she said.

This initiative would, according to her, include the upscaling of poverty alleviation welfare programmes such as the Extended Public Works Programme.  

By Abel Mputing
18 March 2020